Two stories

From the NYT on the 19th: fairies and Ganesh(a).

1. Fairy conventions. From a sad story about a death, “Fanciful Adieu for Victim Who Saw World’s ‘Hidden Magic’ ” by N. R. Kleinfield:

They quietly buried the man who had no business dying.

The next day, friends wearing fairy wings extended their own goodbyes.

Intermingled glimpses were shared. He was infectiously kind, cared deeply for his mother, revered steam locomotives, was enthralled with comic books and fairies. A modest life that stayed out of the public face, unnoticed and unremarked upon, the way it is with most lives. His unfortunate end got him the attention.

On the afternoon of Sept. 4, in Union Square, near the comic book store and gothic shop that he frequented, Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, was approached by an assailant who punched him in the face in what authorities deemed a random attack. The police said the attacker declared that he wanted to “punch the first white man” he saw.

… Mr. Babbitt, a retired train hostler, the person who moves engines around railroad yards, lived with his mother in a brick apartment building in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He regularly visited Union Square, where he would linger for hours. He was well liked by the employees at his haunts: the Forbidden Planet comic store, the Gothic Renaissance store and the Halloween Adventure shop.

… Mr. Babbitt had been at Gothic Renaissance on the day he was attacked. He often bought fairy figurines and ornaments there. At Forbidden Planet, he purchased comic books. His favorite series was Grimm Fairy Tales, modern horror versions of classic fairy tales, infused with dark humor, that are published by Zenescope Entertainment. Having learned of his devotion, Zenescope plans to dedicate a coming issue to Mr. Babbitt.

Mr. Babbitt traveled to a lot of comic book, science fiction and fairy conventions, including the big FaerieCon festival. One of his important life moments, he had told Mr. Anakanu, was when he was baptized with fairy dust by Twig the Fairy, a character who appears at conventions and Renaissance fairs.

I’d been aware of the world of comic book enthusiasts and sci-fi enthusiasts, of course, but I hadn’t appreciated just how much the world of fairies (the mythical creatures) had become institutionalized, with conventions and all.

I did have a moment of disconcertion about the fairy (also spelled faery) tag, because I’d long been familiar with the Radical Faery movement. From Wikipedia:

The Radical Faeries (also Faeries and Fae) are a loosely-affiliated, worldwide network and counter-cultural movement seeking to reject hetero-imitation and redefine queer identity through [earth-based] spirituality. The Radical Faerie movement started in the United States among gay men during the 1970s sexual and counterculture revolution.

The Faeries are playful and celebrate ritual, but they’re definitely sexual, unlike (so far as I know) the faeries Babbitt was engaged with.

2. Ganesh(a). And then this story, about the annual celebration of Ganesha, “Uncertain Times in India, but Not for a Deity”, by Ellen Barry:

Mumbai, India — As this year’s monsoon season receded, onions were selling for an eye-popping 58 cents a pound, and inflation had accelerated to a six-month high. It has been a period of belt-tightening in India’s financial capital, a slow but sure blunting of hopes.

But you would hardly have known that if you were standing under a 25-foot, gemstone-encrusted statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesh, who is believed to have the power to remove obstacles.

From Wikipedia:

Ganesha…, also spelled Ganesa, also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka is a widely worshipped deity in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations. Devotion to Ganesha is widely diffused and extends to Jains, Buddhists, and beyond India.

Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha’s elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.

… The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana (Sanskrit … gaṇa), meaning a group, multitude, or categorical system and isha (Sanskri … īśa), meaning lord or master.

… An annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesha Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or early September. The festival begins with people bringing in clay idols of Ganesha, symbolising Ganesha’s visit. The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi, when idols (murtis) of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water.

Ganesh(a) is an excellent (and amiable) god for academics. Remarkably, the sexual potential of the elephant’s trunk seems not to have been exploited in popular imagery.


Leave a Reply